November 20, 2009 9:30am
I came out to mom and dad a little over 7 years ago. A lot has happened in my life as well as theirs since that day, and some things about our relationship and the way we interact have changed; some haven’t.
One of the things my mother used to invariably do that pissed me off to no end was to write one little phrase at the end of the cards and e-mails that she sent me (I think she has said it to me over the phone on occasion, but I’m not 100% certain of that). She used to write, in essence, “I can’t wait until your feet are again under your Father’s table” or a variation thereof. Notice the utilization of the capital letter “F” in the word father, used to signify my Father God in heaven versus my father here on earth. Mom wasn’t writing that out of a desire for me to come over and have dinner with my dad and her. She was writing that as a means of expressing her belief that I had fallen out of fellowship with God, and she wanted for me to remedy that.
Just the thought of that statement, used so often in the past, gets my hackles up. I’m able to process it much easier now than I used to though. When she would say or write that, I would absolutely bristle. It was like the reactions of the monsters in old movies to sunlight or the sign of the cross. Now I can shrug off the statement because I know that it is based in and on ignorance and lies, but it still hurts just a little, and makes me at least want to be defensive, even if I don’t act on it.
I won’t go into all the arguments about whether or not God accepts homosexuals. I could recommend some great books, but that’s not what I want to write about today. What I want to talk about today is our role as God’s children, but more specifically, as guests at God’s table.
First let me tell you why a seemingly simple little statement could make me absolutely seethe with anger. To insinuate that my feet are not under the table in God’s house at His great feast is to imply that I am not an invited guest. The assumption made is that I have chosen a life contrary to God’s divine will, which renders me unable to sit at His table. This here, this is the part that pisses me off, every time: If I’m not allowed to sit at the table because I’m not serving God, who am I serving? You can play the game of semantics and run around saying “bless his heart” and “love the sinner, not the sin” until you’re blue in the face. You can try to sound Christian and non-judgmental, like little Sam and Susie Spiritual all you want, but the fact of the matter is and remains that you are accusing me of being a heathen acting willfully against God and His word. That. That, dear readers, is what will set me off on a tirade every single time. Whether out loud or to myself; it really doesn’t matter. I don’t need an audience for the sermon that pours forth out of me at that time. I’ll preach to the choir, I’ll preach to the congregation, I’ll preach to a friend, a foe, every man, woman and child who walks down the street, I will preach to my dogs and fish if I have to. It’s coming out one way or another.
Let’s start here: The feast, as it were, is thrown by God, who is therefore in charge of the guest list. The feast is a wedding feast, wherein the bridegroom, Jesus, is united as one with His bride, the people of God. In Revelation 21:9, John writes that one of seven angels talked with him and said, “Come here, I shall show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” John then goes on to describe the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, and he describes in detail the vastness and beauty of this city, prepared for “…those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev. 21:27) As the inhabitants of this New Jerusalem, which is called the Bride of Christ by the angel, we are all then part of the bride. WE are the Bride of Christ. The feast is a celebration of the marriage, the once-and-for-all unification of Jesus to His people. We are not just guests at the feast; we are part of the wedding party. We are both the celebrants and the celebrated!
As the Bride of the Lamb of God, would not those who deride us and deny us our rightful place not think it wise to obey the warning of the very same Son who said of marriage, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Mark 10:7-9)
That, to me, says that as the intended of Christ, His betrothed, we are to be joined together by God and not separable by any means. Yet we don’t even have to go so far to learn this! In Luke 18:17, Jesus says, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all.” Right before that (vs. 15-16), Jesus was rebuking His disciples for trying to prevent parents from bringing their children to Him: “And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He might touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, 'Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'” Emphasis mine)
I don’t think it’s any mistake to read that as a rebuke to all of us to not only stop preventing children to turn to Jesus, but also as instruction to turn to Him as children ourselves! Jesus makes it clear that no one, even those acting on what they presume to be His behalf, should ever prevent God’s children from coming to Him.
Now we’re getting to the good stuff, so bear with me a little longer here…
In the Bible, we learn of our many roles as followers of Christ, or His disciples if you will. We are to be “fishers of men” just as the original disciples He called were told they would be. We are to share the Gospel, the love of God, the grace of God, the forgiveness of God.
In other words, I am to invite all I know to come share in the feast. God has sent out a broadcast invitation to the ends of the earth for all to partake in the feast, where we will not only celebrate, but be celebrated in our unity with our Creator. We are all handed an unlimited supply of invitations, with no names yet written on them, with the instructions to hand them out to all we meet.
Our role as guests is to invite others to come with us. Our role is to sit at the table and rejoice at the sighting of one we know sitting at the table with us. We are to revel in the long-awaited reunion of ourselves to the One who calls us. We love and laugh with those who are with us, whether man or woman, black or white, tall or short, fat or skinny. We are all, finally and blessedly, God’s children. There is no more need for adjectives and pronouns! We will be one family, at peace with one another in love and mercy through no other gift than that of the grace of God.
Let me look something up real quick in the back of my Bible. Oh, it’s got to be here somewhere. That’s odd. I found an entry for “door”, but not for “doorman”. I’ll try “gatekeeper”. Oh! Here it is! Let me go look it up… Well, that just mentions who the gatekeepers at the temple in old Jerusalem were. Let’s try the next verse. Well, not much there either. Let’s just look at the notes in the bottom of my study Bible.
From the footnotes of 1 Chr 9:17-18 (Life Application Study Bible, Tyndale): “Porters, or gatekeepers, guarded the four main entrances to the Temple and opened the gates each morning for those who wanted to worship. In addition, they did other day-to-day chores to keep the Temple running smoothly – cleaning, preparing the offerings for sacrifice, and accounting for the gifts designated to the Temple.
“Gatekeepers had to be reliable, honest, and trustworthy. The people in our churches who handle the offerings and care for the materials and functions of the building follow in a great tradition and we should honor them for their reliability and service.”
Huh? That’s not what I was really looking for. Let’s keep looking… Well, I did find another note for 1 Chr 26:1, but it’s a similar description of the duties of the gatekeepers that really doesn’t say much about keeping people from entering the Temple. Plus, since its 1 Chronicles, and they’re talking about the physical Temple of the Old Testament, and it was written in approximately 430 B.C., it may not really be what we’re after quite yet.
You know what? Maybe being the gatekeeper, or the “Spiritual Bouncer” as I like to call it, isn’t in my concordance or references, but I bet you it’s listed in the spiritual gifts! Let’s go look! Ah, here we are! The fruit of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Hmm, no bouncer yet; maybe we should try the Amplified Bible. I bet one of those “-ness’s” from the NAS version will translate into what we’re looking for!
Galatians 5:22-23 (Amplified, Zondervan): “But the fruit of the [Holy] Sprit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].”
Well I’m still not finding what I’m looking for here. Oh, I know! Maybe it’s not one of the fruits of the Spirit, but a gift of the Spirit! Let’s just jump right to the Amplified Bible, shall we? 1 Corinthians 12:8-11: “To one is given in and through [Holy] Spirit [the power to speak] a message of wisdom, and to another [the power to express] a word of knowledge and understanding according to the same [Holy] Spirit; To another [wonder-working] faith by the same [Holy] Spirit, to another the extraordinary powers of healing by the one Spirit; To another the working of miracles, to another prophetic insight (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose); to another the ability to discern and distinguish between [the utterances of true] spirits [and false ones], to another various kinds of [unknown] tongues, to another the ability to interpret [such] tongues. All these [gifts, achievements, abilities] are inspired and brought to pass by one and the same [Holy] Spirit, Who apportions to each person individually [exactly] as He chooses.”
Well, no spiritual bouncer there either. I suppose someone who is gifted with the ability to discern spirits could be used as a bouncer, but that may be stretching it. Maybe God didn’t really intend for us to be doormen. Could it be possible? I believe so.
This is how I’m able to take that one phrase that tries to separate me from the love of God, and just let it roll on by: God did not call us to be the “Spiritual Bouncers” at the door of His feast. He only calls us to come, and to bring others with us. It really is that simple.
God didn’t say, “Come into my house and feast at my table, but prevent others you feel unworthy to come from joining us there.”
God just simply says, “Come. Bring a friend; we’ll have a great time. Don’t worry if the people you invite are going to show up. Invite them all anyway.”
When we all get to the Lord’s Table and are feasting with Him, He wants our focus to be on Him and on the gifts before us. The place He has brought us to, the beauty and glory before us. The love of those around us. We’re invited guests, not the bouncers. We’ll be too busy celebrating inside to worry about what’s going on outside anyway. God isn’t going to invite us to a feast and then make us stand outside and take care of the guest list. That just isn’t our role. Our role is to celebrate.
So from now on, wherever you are on your journey to the feast at God’s place, you should most definitely hand out invitations along the way. Bring as many people as you can, cause we’re gonna’ have us a party.
But when someone tries to stop you and tell you that you can’t go, or that you need to change your clothes or comb your hair or do this or don’t do that, I want you to look them in the eye and tell them this: “You see this? This is my invitation to the party.”
Your invitation isn’t going to have a dress code mentioned. It’s not a black tie affair. It won’t even have a time listed! You’ll be there when you get there, so long as you continue to walk in the direction of the party.
It just says, “Come.” That’s it. That’s all that’s required. “Come.”
You can tell it was written for you, because it’s signed by Jesus. He signed all of our invitations in blood, and that’s the real reason we can get in the door.
This might be a good time to remind the stranger, who may sincerely be trying to help you from the bottom of their heart that they need to keep walking, too. Remind them that they have an invitation as well, but they have to move to get there. Standing still and stopping others doesn’t get anyone home any faster. If they join you, that’s great. If not, then maybe someone else who comes along will be able to get them to go. Whether they do or not doesn’t change anything for you.
You still have your very own invitation.